Virtual Panel: The Future Of Audio Drama

August 30, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Audio Drama, News 

SFFaudio News

Fred Greenhalgh, of Final Rune Productions (and Radio Drama Revival podcast) moderates this “virtual panel” entitled The Future Of Audio Drama – and though this thing needs serious editing, (not everybody has headphones) it does have the virtue of being brand new, recorded live from 3pm-4pm EDT, August 30th, 2013.

Participants include: Clare Eden (Minister of Chance), Christof Laputka (Leviathan Chronicles), Monique Boudreau (Aural Stage Studios), Joel Metzger (Hothouse Bruiser)

Posted by Jesse Willis

The Graveyard Shift: The Whisperer In Darkness by H.P. Lovecraft (read by Dudley Knight)

August 30, 2013 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio News

The Graveyard Shift - Readings by Dudley KnightI’m not sure when this reading would have been broadcast, likely sometime between the mid-1970s and the mid-1980s, but what we do know is the narrator, Dudley Knight. Knight was a U.C. Irvine professor of drama, who voiced a long running radio series called The Graveyard Shift. This is from that series.

Part 1 of 4:

Part 2 of 4:

Part 3 of 4:

Part 4 of 4:

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Rebellion by B.V. Larson

August 29, 2013 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

rebellionRebellion (Star Force #3)
By B.V. Larson, Performed by Mark Boyett
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 12 hours

Themes: / aliens / military sci-fi / fighting bugs / machines /

Publisher summary:

Rebellion is the turning point in the great interstellar war between all living creatures and the machines. Star Force is on the side of the machines – but for how long? In the third book of the Star Force series, Kyle Riggs learns just what kind of war Earth is caught up in. At the mercy of the Macros, his marines fight against new alien races, big and small. They battle the innocent and the vile alike, until their situation becomes grim.

Rebellion is the third novel in B. V. Larson’s Star Force series starring computer science professor turned interstellar marine Kyle Riggs. It stands on its own better than the previous novel, Extinction, but I would still recommend reading the previous books first as the plot throughout the series thus far has been mostly linear. In Rebellion, Larson takes his Star Force formula, throws in a couple new atomic grenades, and keeps blasting right along with the story of humanity’s fight against alien machines known as the Macros.

Given the title, it should come as no surprise that in this novel Kyle Riggs leads the battered remnants of his Star Force marines in a rebellion against their Macro masters. His reasons for this are many, but the decision point comes when he discovers that, while the Macros are scrupulous in abiding by the letter of their agreements, they have no compunction in their networked silica minds against taking advantage of every loophole in an agreement. In this case, they use Riggs’s nanotized marines to attack a race that had failed to include a prohibition against indirect assault using mercenaries in their peace treaty. Riggs concludes that the Macros will employ similar tactics against Earth and the near future and determines that it is better to restart the war now. On his own terms. With only five thousand men. With no way of alerting Earth.

Draw your own conclusions about Kyle Riggs’s big-picture tactical planning capabilities but, as in the previous novels, it is hard to fault his individual decisions in the heat of the moment. Indeed, I’m starting to wonder if Larson intends his hero to be an object lesson in the difficulty of making good choices under stress.

The structure of the Macro / Nano division continues to frustrate me. I’m beginning to accept that Nanos can not simply swarm a Macro and take it apart, though this acceptance is less for any logical reason than just because it continues to not happen, even though there are specific scenes of destroyed Macros being disassembled by Nanos and reprocessed. Perhaps my worst gripe along these lines for Rebellion is the revelation that Macro ships are difficult to pilot because the cockpits are built for pilots with seven arms. Now, I’ll accept that there is some sort of fundamental programming element that requires all Macros to be large, but when their entire command structure is built on networked parallel processing, why aren’t the ships just built into that network? There is simply no reason for the Macros to have physical ship controls, any more than there is a need for their ships to have pressurized compartments.

All complaints aside, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Rebellion features more, and far more interesting, revelations about the Star Force universe than its predecessor. The best of these are the emergence of a new machine intelligence and Sandra finally coming into her own as a character. This new intelligence starts off as little more than another of the nanobot “brain boxes” that Riggs uses in every aspect of his military. Riggs names the over-achieving brain box Marvin, in what I can only hope is an unacknowledged tip of the hat to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and the interactions between Marvin and the human characters are probably the best part of this novel. As for Sandra, she spends half the novel in a coma, then wakes up just in time to reprise her roll as Riggs’s shallow, hot-tempered girlfriend. Literally her first action after waking up is to punch another woman for kissing Riggs in a moment of desperation. Fortunately, Sandra seems to blow most of her daft behavior allocation in that first moment as, with the help of some sentient microbes who have been tortured into assisting Starforce, she quickly evolves into a strong, self-motivated character.

Development of characters other than Kyle Riggs has been a weakness for this series from the beginning, and Rebellion does little to change this. Other than the introduction of Marvin and the growth in Sandra, the only supporting characters to see a change are Jasmine, who develops a crush on Riggs, and Kwan, who gets a girlfriend and learns a few new English idioms. But you don’t read Star Force novels for character development or fully coherent plot. If you are a fan of fast-paced science fiction featuring liberal quantities of bloody, laser-scorched human versus robot combat, Rebellion will quench your thirst for action.

The audiobook narrated by Mark Boyett has the usual quality of production and performance. Three books into the series, I do have to admit that I am starting to get annoyed by the accents of characters other than Kyle Riggs, as it seems that any human character who merits a name also has an accent. Mark Boyett does a fine job with his reading, and I do appreciate that B. V. Larson is attempting to show the global nature of Star Force, but the continual shifting of accents and genders from a single male reader grows tiresome after about six hours.

Posted by Andrew Linke

Listen to the first five chapters of Brandon Sanderson’s Steelheart

August 28, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: New Releases 

SFFaudio Online Audio

Cover Art for Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

Steelheart
By Brandon Sanderson; Read by Macleod Andrews
[EXCERPT] – 1 hour 31 minutes
Publisher: Audible Frontiers
Published: 2013
Themes: dystopia / superheroes / revenge

Audible has made available the first five chapters of Brandon Sanderson’s forthcoming YA dystopian novel Steelheart for free. The novel will be released September 24.

A red star-like object called Calamity appears in our night’s sky. A year later, certain individuals begin developing supernatural powers and come to be known as Epics. A decade or so later, chaos reigns as the Epics turn our world into their personal playground–and battleground. The novel’s prologue flashes back ten years from the main events to a time when the world was still relatively whole. In an unsettling scene, the titular villain is introduced and grounds for a vendetta are established. The remainder of the excerpt follows the main character, whose name we don’t learn, along his first steps on the path of revenge as he courts the resistance movement known as the Reckoners.

Like many readers, I first heard the name Brandon Sanderson in connection with the Wheel of Time series. Having abandoned that bloated series long ago, I never read his contribution, but I did read and enjoy Elantris, the Mistborn trilogy, and Warbreaker. A few chapters into his gargantuan The Way of Kings, however, I realized I was experiencing Sanderson fatigue. Each of his books or series is best known for its wildly inventive magical system, but I felt like I was reading the same two or three character types with the same motivations battling the same circumstances over and over again.

Judging from the opening chapters, Steelheart shows all the signature strengths of the young writer while shedding the overwrought plotting and characters that plague some of his other work. The novel’s categorization as a YA novel, I think, accounts for a lot of the tight focus on action. The near future dystopian setting also shatters Sanderson’s fantasy mold–The Alloy of Law only cracked it. Of course, the world still bears Sanderson’s unmistakable imaginative stamp. Macleod Andrews’s lively narration also fits the fast pace of the novel quite well, though he’s also capable of rendering the few human, emotional moments expertly as well.

I’m tempted to comment further on the excerpt, but I don’t want to spoil the experience. At an hour and a half, it really is worth a listen, even if you’re normally not a fan of dystopias or YA fiction.

Posted by Seth Wilson

Review of A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami

August 28, 2013 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Reviews 
SFFaudio Review

A Wild Sheep Chase coverA Wild Sheep Chase: A Novel
By Haruki Murakami; Read by Rupert Degas
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: August 2013
ISBN: 9780804166539
[UNABRIDGED] – 9 hours, 38 minutes
Excerpt: |MP3|

Themes: / fantasy / sheep / surreal thriller /

Publisher summary:

It begins simply enough: A twenty-something advertising executive receives a postcard from a friend, and casually appropriates the image for an insurance company’s advertisement. What he doesn’t realize is that included in the pastoral scene is a mutant sheep with a star on its back, and in using this photo he has unwittingly captured the attention of a man in black who offers a menacing ultimatum: find the sheep or face dire consequences. Thus begins a surreal and elaborate quest that takes our hero from the urban haunts of Tokyo to the remote and snowy mountains of northern Japan, where he confronts not only the mythological sheep, but the confines of tradition and the demons deep within himself.

In Haruki Murakami’s seductive novel A Wild Sheep Chase, Murakami spins a yarn (see what I did there) around such issues as personal identity and the meaning of life.  Sound complicated?  No not really… well maybe a little, but it all depends on how deep you want to dive and how long you wish to hold your breath.  Do you need to be a trained philosopher and English/lit major to decipher the subtle beauty of this novel?  No, but it doesn’t hurt either.

Murakami’s ability to word-paint vivid autumn colors through brushed scenery of green grass and sunburnt leaves only pales to his talent of sketching his wintered black and white landscapes of rain soaked city nights and the lonely dark of death.  For the most part, I was rolling along really enjoying the ride.  When I reached the end, everything shifted and the true weight of what this story is about settled deep around me like an endless snow.  Lulling, dulling, and soothing the reader until who we are is reflected in a grimy mirror.  The I becomes you, the you becomes we, the we becomes… a sheep?

Here’s all you need to know.  Don’t get hung up on the whole “A sheep inside of me” thing or the uncountable mentions of a “dead whale’s penis,” just go with the flow and ride the tide.  Permit the current to carry you along and let loose your anchor and just drift.

Rupert Degas acting as narrator is brilliant.  Let me say this again.  Rupert Degas as narrator is brilliant.  I haven’t heard a reader narrate something so clean and true since I listened to Frank Muller narrate All Quiet on the Western Front or I Heard the Owl Call My Name.  Rupert Degas delivers a reading that sooths the ear while making Murakami’s narrative dance like maple leaves in a September breeze.

If you can’t tell, I found this to be a damn fine book.  I enjoyed the subtle layering of philosophy and critical theory.  I found the narrative captivating once I “let go.”  Hmmm, might this be a reflection of life?  Is life better consumed if one can let go from time to time with the understanding that time itself is an unanswered question of experienced interpretation?  Maybe…  Maybe so maybe no but still, this was a pleasure to read.

Posted by Casey Hampton.

Review of Book of Seven Hands by Barth Anderson

August 27, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Book of Seven Hands coverBook of Seven Hands (Foreworld SideQuest)
By Barth Anderson; Performed by Nick Podehl
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 5 hours

Themes: / Foreworld / swordsmen /

Publisher summary:

Expert swordsmen Basilio and Alejo have one last mission before they go their separate ways: they must recover their teacher Don Manuel’s ancient fighting manual and take it to remote Cataluña in order to have it translated by the famous alchemist Paracelsus. Unbeknownst to them, however, Don Manuel has been murdered, and a host of powerful forces has come looking for the coveted book – everyone from old lovers and lifelong archenemies to the King’s assassin, and the Spanish Inquisition. The adventures of Basilio and Alejo usher in a new era of adventures in Foreworld, one wherein the Shield-Brethren, the fabled warrior monks of the medieval era, have been stricken from history. Old traditions are threatened and long-standing secrets are in danger of being revealed.

This is a novella from the Foreworld saga and I must admit, this is my first book from that series. I don’t know if any of the characters overlap from other books, but I had no trouble getting into this book or understanding what was going on.

The general setting is in 13th century Spain where the Inquisition is searching for renowned swordsmen who are seeking the book of seven hands. Those two men are Basilio and Alejo, students of the great Don Manuel. They are fulfilling the master’s last wish in retrieving his old fighting manual and getting it translated for use. Adventure ensues as the swordsmen are pursued espadas, are drawn, and revelations are made take place. Think of it kind like Zorro meets The Three Musketeers complete with bits of humor thrown in for good measure.

Overall I found the book to be enjoyable and fun. My wife and I guessed the big revelation later in the book and it didn’t really have much bearing on the main part of the story anyway.

As for the audiobook, I really like Nick Podehl. I’d even say that the only reason I chose to do this book was because he was reading it. It wasn’t my favorite performance of his but I still really enjoyed all the different characters. I definitely got some flashes of Christoph Waltz from Django Unchained with Mr. Podehl’s voice for Paracelsus.

Posted by Tom Schreck

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